RI mayoral candidates question cost of city's development plans near Jumer's


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Posted Online: March 20, 2013, 5:37 pm
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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com
The Rock Island City Council's decision to spend $1 million on 90 acres of land close to Jumer's that the city doesn't have permission to develop is drawing criticism from two mayoral candidates.

Rick Cassini and David Levin are running against current mayor Dennis Pauley in the April 9 local election. At a forum Wednesday, both criticized the council's decision to buy the land at Illinois 92 and Interstate 280. Mr. Pauley supported the decision.

"It occurs to me that $11,000 an acre for land in a floodplain is a rather steep price," said Mr. Cassini, a Rock Island businessman.

The council voted in February to buy the property from RiverStone Group Inc., Moline, which had planned to use it the site as a sand and gravel pit.

RiverStone's plans for the site ran aground when it met with opposition from local residents and government bodies whose permission is needed to modify the levee at the site.

Now, Rock Island's plan to feed off traffic generated by Jumer's and develop a retail and residential hub at the site could encounter similar hurdles.

The city's proposal would push the levee at the site back, which needs permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Milan's village board and the Big Island River Conservancy District.

"Why spend $1 million on Big Island when the residents are against it," Mr. Levin said. "If a developer wants to get into the liability, let them do it."

Mr. Levin, a real estate agent, also questioned the wisdom of pushing the project without first ensuring the site could be developed.

RiverStone's plan for the site got tied up in the courts in 2005 when a federal judge dismissed the company's request that the U.S. Corps of Engineers approve the project. RiverStone wanted to run a slurry pipe through the levee.

Although the Corps reviewed RiverStone's site plan and determined it would not weaken the levee, the Corps gave the Milan and the conservancy district final approval, and both had already denied the request to modify the levee, saying the project could harm private wells.

At Wednesday's invitation-only forum for Rock Island candidates at the Quad City Botanical Center, organized by Renaissance Rock Island, Mr. Pauley defended the city's plan for Big Island.

He said the $6 million in annual revenue the city receives from the gaming tax at Jumer's could "quickly drop down to $2 million or $3 million" in the face of increased competition.

For that reason, spending $1 million now to secure land close to Jumer's for future development that would complement Jumer's and grow the city's tax base was a "very good investment."

A consultant hired by the city already has drawn up plans for the site, which included space for a big box store, smaller commercial spaces and residential units at the site.

City officials cautioned that seeking permission from the Corps for alterations to the levee called for in the plan, could take months.


























 




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  Today is Thursday, April 17, the 107th day of 2014. There are 258 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Journeymen shoemakers of Rock Island struck for higher wages yesterday morning, asking 25 percent increases. Employers have acceded to their demand.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Lighting struck wires of the Merchants Electric Light Co. during a furious storm, and many Rock Island business houses were compelled to resort to gas as a means of illumination.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, decided to erect a new edifice at a cost of about $60,000.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Willard Anderson, junior forward for the Augustana College basketball team, which won 17 out of 22 contests, was elected captain of the quintet.
1964 -- 50 years ago: John Hoffman, Moline, president of the Sac-Fox Council of Boy Scouts, will be honored for his 50 years in scouting by members of the council at a dinner Thursday evening.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Quad-Cities has what is believed to be the area's first elite-class gymnast. It's the stuff upon which Olympic competitors are made. Tiffany Chapman, of Rock Island, not only has earned the highest possible gymnast ranking, she won the honor at age 11.






(More History)